May 4, 2009

IN OTHER WORDS, A GOVERNOR:

Kempism: Who is the next Jack Kemp? (Jerry Bowyer, 05.04.09, Forbes)

I remember one of the big media liberal pundits speaking about the GOP convention in 1984, I think, after Kemp spoke. It might have been Sam Donaldson. He said "These Republicans think they can take born-again Christians and combine them with high-tech entrepreneurs. It won't work."

But it did work. It worked because high-tech entrepreneurs needed lower taxes, and Reagan gave it to them. Born-again Christians were right, the sexual revolution didn't liberate the culture; it degraded it. These two groups didn't have a lot of personal chemistry between them, nor either with the foreign policy hawks who were the real "realists" of the cold war. Personal chemistry didn't bring these people together--reality did. All reality needed was a guy who was willing to search for the truth about the way the world works, to disconnect his flinch reactions about how the political culture would react to the truth, and then explain the basic truths of things over and over again with joy. Jack Kemp was that guy.

Now, of course, smaller men divide up the coalition that Kemp conceived and Reagan created. Some of them talk at length about the sanctity of life but then lash out at the "Club for Greed." Some will cut taxes to the bone, but are bored by dead babies. They believe in "divide and conquer," but of their friends, not their opponents.

Let me offer some thoughts on where the next Kemp will (and will not) come from: probably not from the establishment. Washington doesn't grow problem-solvers, it grows power-accumulators. I'm talking about the right and the left. I'm talking about those in the network of think tanks, lobbying firms and advocacy groups, which constitute the government in exile. The first group crowds around the president; the second group crowds around the money. Neither actually face anything like economic reality. The next Kemp will really get economics, but will be an outsider to the profession. Economics is often best learned outside of a graduate school of economics. Kemp learned it while cooking breakfast for Art Laffer and peppering Art with questions. Of course, Kemp really learned his economics by growing up in an entrepreneurial household.

Laffer is still with us, and still a generous teacher. So are Kudlow and Forbes. My guess is that the next Kemp will be a reader of Laffer, a watcher of Kudlow and a subscriber of Forbes. This person will not have to try to remarry faith and entrepreneurship, because the two were never properly divorced. The conservative establishment will say, "who is that? I've never met them at any of our gatherings." But he (or she) will have energy, and enthusiasm, and problem-solving ability, and more ambition for ideas than for power.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at May 4, 2009 8:42 PM
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